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  • Immigration Evolution

    October 15, 2010

    by Christopher Sabatini

    I’ve never been one of those people who, in lamenting policy and politics in the U.S., builds up another country to disparage my own. Yet I must admit, this week I felt pangs of envy in hearing Québec officials talk with cool rationale about the economic calculations behind their immigration policies.  

    I was in Montreal on a trip organized by the Québec delegation in NYC.  While I was there I had the opportunity to meet with high-level officials and community groups working on immigration and the integration of future and recent arrivals into Québec’s economy and society.  The ways they described their policies and their future efforts couldn’t contrast more with what is occurring in the United States.  For those in Québec, immigration is a demographic imperative: they need an influx of young workers to replace the province’s aging workforce.  Getting them is critical to sustaining the province’s economic growth, competitiveness and paying for the pensions of those soon-over-the-hill French Canadians approaching retirement.  As the Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil said, “We’re now in competition with Ireland and Australia for skilled labor.”  (Her mention of Australia revealed the tough competitors Canada faces today in trying to attract immigrants, “Sure they have the weather and beaches, but they also have sharks,” she said trying to put the best face on Québec’s notoriously brutal winters. On this, I would also encourage the Ministry to highlight Australia’s baby-eating dingoes for the non-swimming immigrants thinking of setting up a new life in Australia.) 

    You would never hear the same immigration maturity just south of the Canadian border.  While the problem of labor force replacement is more acute in Québec than in the U.S., we do need to worry about replacement rates for our declining fertility rates—and it is only going to become more serious.  Between 2002 and 2012, 28 million jobs will be created in the U.S. requiring less than a high school education—given rising education rates in the U.S., the native-born population will not be able to fill that demand. 

    Like Québec, we also need a regular flow of immigrant labor too to shore up our social security system.  Despite what the anti-immigrant nativists would have you believe, immigrants—even undocumented immigrants—pay more in taxes than they take out, providing a critical source of new revenue for those soon-to-be retiring baby boomers that threaten to bankrupt our social security system.  According to a 2007 Social Security Administration Report just the addition of 100,000 new, net immigrants per year increases the long-range actuarial balance of our taxable payroll by .07 percent. If you multiply that with the approximately million immigrants that arrive on our shores each year, that’s a real revenue source. 

    Read More

    Tags: Canada, Immigration Policy, Quebec

  • Attention in Brazil Elections Shifts to Abortion

    October 15, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Reports from Brazil this week indicate that the presidential candidates’ positions on abortion are becoming a significant factor in the country’s October 31 second-round contest between Worker’s Party candidate Dilma Rousseff and her Social Democracy Party opponent José Serra. Abortion has not historically played a prominent role in national elections in Brazil despite having the world’s largest Catholic population and a growing number of evangelical Christians.

    The rise to prominence of the abortion issue is likely tied to the candidates’ efforts to woo supporters of Green Party candidate and evangelical Marina Silva, who dropped out of the race after winning an unexpectedly high 19 percent of the national vote. Analysts are now suggesting that the Workers’ Party’s traditional support for abortion and gay marriage may have cost Dilma Rousseff in the first round of voting and could play a defining role in the increasingly tight race's outcome. 

    In a televised debate last Sunday, Rousseff and Serra publicly clashed on the abortion issue. Serra accused Rousseff of changing her previous stance, while Rousseff responded that Serra “has a thousand faces” and accused him of slander.

    Abortion is illegal in Brazil except in cases of rape or if the mother’s life is at risk. Estimates vary, but the Brazilian Ministry of Health claims one million illegal abortions are performed per year and are the fourth largest cause of maternal mortality.

    Tags: Dilma Rousseff, Jose Serra, Brazil Elections 2010, Abortion

  • From Ecuador. President’s Powers Go Unchecked

    October 15, 2010

    by Lindsay Green-Barber

    Ecuadorian democracy is as strong as ever.  There is freedom of information and expression.  The Revolución Ciudadana (Citizens’ Revolution) is not only moving forward, but is radicalizing.

    These statements, largely accepted as true both within and without Ecuador, are patently false.

    Following the police strike of September 30, President Correa has extended the estado de excepción (state of exception) for “at least” another 60 days, the constitutional limit. While the Ecuadorian assembly will continue to meet, debate and pass legislation, the president has the power to suspend the assembly at any moment and rule by decree.  Correa has the full backing of the military in all of his actions.

    The reasoning for the extension of the estado de excepción is vague and varied—restructuring of the police, the need for time to purge and prosecute those who participated in the “coup,” national security, etc.  The great irony is that as states as dissimilar as Iran and Cuba and the United States and Chile have rushed to lend support to Correa in his strengthening of Ecuadorian democracy, an estado de excepción is inherently undemocratic; it is the suspension of the normal, democratic, constitutional order.  And we’re in it through December.

    Read More

    Tags: Ecuador, Rafael Correa

  • Desde Bolivia. Los Poderes del Presidente

    October 14, 2010

    by Cecilia Lanza

    De los tres poderes del Estado: Ejecutivo, Legislativo y Judicial, el gobierno de Evo Morales los tiene todos. Y quiere más. Se dice que el cuarto poder son los medios de comunicación. Y el quinto es el llamado “soberano”, el pueblo, que en la práctica se reduce a los llamados “movimientos sociales” afines al partido de gobierno.

    El gobierno de Morales tiene mayoría en el Congreso, lo que le permite aprobar las leyes que crea convenientes sin ninguna dificultad, salvo el tiempo que debe invertir en el debate congresal que no es más que una puesta en escena del ejercicio democrático que por lo general sucumbe bajo el llamado “rodillo” oficialista y ante la impotencia de una oposición reducida al griterío. El poder Judicial fue poco a poco debilitado y sus componentes, uno a uno, liquidados para colocar de modo interino (es decir, indefinidamente) a nuevos miembros cercanos al partido de gobierno.

    Read More

    Tags: Bolivia, Evo Morales

  • Canada Declares Common Chemical Toxic

    October 14, 2010

    by AQ Online

    The government of Canada formally announced on Wednesday that bisephenol A (BPA), a primary chemical ingredient used to make clear, hard plastics, is a toxic substance. BPA also lines aluminum cans used for soft drinks, fruits and vegetables. According to Environment Canada, the government organization that banned the compound, BPA can negatively affect animals’ hormonal systems and thereby poses a threat to humans who consume those animals.

    Six U.S. states have already banned the use of BPA in children’s products, but the U.S. federal government has not taken an official stance on the issue. Europe has taken the opposite approach and the European Food Safety Authority released a report that cited no conclusive evidence that BPA is harmful to humans or animals. France and Denmark have imposed temporary bans in the past.

    Canada will begin enforcing the new legislation by limiting how much BPA can be released into air and water by factories that use the compound, to the dismay of the chemical industry. The American Chemistry Council condemned Environment Canada’s decision, claiming it will “unnecessarily confuse and alarm the public.”

    Tags: Canada, BPA

  • Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

    October 13, 2010

    by AS-COA Online

    From the Americas Society/Council of the Americas. AS/COA Online's news brief examines the major—as well as some of the overlooked—events and stories occurring across the Americas. Check back every Wednesday for the weekly roundup.

    Sign up to receive the Weekly Roundup via email.

    As World Watches, Chilean Miners Rescued

    After nearly 70 days trapped underground, Florencio Ávalos became the first of 33 miners rescued from a collapsed Chilean mine just after midnight Santiago time on October 13. At the time of this report, the miners were being rescued one at a time in a capsule called the “Phoenix” that takes up to 20 minutes to ascend a tunnel measuring 2,041 feet (622 meters long). The dramatic operation, compared to the first moon landing for its complexity and the global attention garnered, has been televised, livestreamed, and tweeted. La Tercera carries an interactive regarding the mine rescue, including the rescue plan and image galleries, while the Gobierno de Chile website offers biographies of the miners and official coverage of rescue efforts.

    Read More

    Tags: Chile, Miners

  • The Costs of Mexicana’s Bankruptcy

    October 13, 2010

    by Arjan Shahani

    On August 2, Mexicana de Aviación wrote the first pages of its version of Gabriel García Márquez’ Crónica de una muerte anunciada (Chronicle of a Foretold Death) as it successfully filed for bankruptcy. Mexicana argued that rising energy costs and the effects of H1N1 on air travel became too much for the company to bear. However the airline’s business practices have also been questionable for a long time.

    Just like in García’s novel, the end result (the death of Santiago Nasar, the main character) became apparent immediately after the bankruptcy announcement. Anyone who had access to a newspaper, TV, radio, or the Internet knew this was the beginning of the end for Mexicana. What we did not know was the amount of time, and more importantly, government resources, this operation and its fallout would require.

    Pilot and staff layoffs, air travel chaos, rising prices from Aeroméxico (its main competitor and now the only truly reliable source for national air transportation) and a myriad of customer complaints characterized the weeks that followed the bankruptcy declaration. On October 12, the Senate even announced the creation of a bicameral committee to deal with the break up, acquisition and restructuring of this business mammoth. As Andrew Ross Sorkin would put it, the government decided that Mexicana de Aviación was just too big to fail.

    Unfortunately, this situation comes at a time when all major events in Mexico are being politicized and used by the parties as a means to strengthen their positions ahead of the 2012 presidential election. Such is the case with the recent populist statements by the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) regarding lowering the value added tax back to 15 percent from last year’s 1 percent increase. This would force the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) and the federal government to publicly announce that it would veto such a proposal as it would result in an unsustainable hit to the government’s budget.

    Read More

    Tags: Mexico, Private Sector

  • Colombia to Sit on UN Security Council

    October 13, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Colombia will serve as a rotating member of the United Nations Security Council this coming January for a two-year term following approval of its uncontested bid to represent Latin America and the Caribbean alongside Brazil.  This marks Colombia’s sixth time serving as a non-permanent rotating member of the Council, replacing Mexico as the second representative of the region.  Other countries elected to serve as non-permanent rotating members include South Africa, Germany, Portugal, and for the first time, India.

    Colombia’s bid for a seat on the Council was made official by President Juan Manuel Santos on September 24 during his address at the UN General Assembly, voicing Colombia’s commitment to assist UN efforts in maintaining international peace and security.   However, Colombia’s bid was met with some opposition from neighboring Bolivia over concerns that Colombia’s presence on the Security Council would serve to expand the influence of the United States on the Council.  Despite the concern, Colombia’s appointment was approved by 186 member countries. 

    In addition to the five newly elected countries, the Security Council’s other non-permanent members—Brazil, Nigeria, Lebanon, Gabon, and Bosnia-Herzegovina—will join the five permanent members (China, France, Russia, Britain, and the United States) for the 2011 term. 

    Tags: Brazil, Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, UN Security Council

  • La Confianza en el Ahora

    October 12, 2010

    by Julio Rank Wright

    La erosión de la confianza en una sociedad significa la apertura de una caja de Pandora con consecuencias desastrosas. El pegamento que cohesiona a una sociedad es la confianza mutua que pudiese existir entre los niveles de interacciones que un determinado individuo pueda tener.

    Es decir, yo debo tener confianza en mi familia, vecinos, conciudadanos, representantes políticos, burócratas, instituciones del Estado y gobernantes de turno para convivir con el mínimo sentimiento de esperanza que las cosas mejoraran para mí y los míos. Queda claro que los niveles de confianza varían entre actores. Por ejemplo, falta de confianza en el rumbo de un país por parte del sector privado nacional e internacional puede tener efectos adversos para el crecimiento económico. Así mismo, falta de confianza entre el pueblo y sus representantes políticos puede generar una espiral de ausentismo electoral o apatía en el sistema político de una nación. Esos tipos de confianza son bastante claros y fáciles de comprender.

    Sin embargo, existe la confianza intra poderes facticos que puede y debe ser prioridad para el futuro de nuestras naciones. Esta confianza va mas allá de un simple relevo generacional, implica soltar las riendas a las nuevas generaciones sin ataduras. ¿A que me refiero? La clases políticas y empresariales tradicionales urgen de una repentina realización de que sin confianza expresa y concreta hacia sus relevos generacionales las sociedades pueden ser víctimas de dogmas e ideas ancladas en el pasado.

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  • Dutch Antilles Gain New Autonomy from the Netherlands

    October 12, 2010

    by AQ Online

    The five Caribbean islands comprising the Netherlands Antilles—Curaçao, Sint Maarten, Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba—underwent a constitutional status change over the weekend, formally gaining autonomy from the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

    Curaçao and Sint Maarten are now autonomous countries
    within the Kingdom, as opposed to their former status as island territories controlled by the Kingdom. They join Aruba and the Netherlands as the four countries that make up the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Aruba formally seceded in 1986; residents of Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten all hold Dutch citizenship but elect their own parliaments.

    Similarly, the BES islands—Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba—have become autonomous special municipalities of the Kingdom. The Netherlands still assumes military and diplomacy duties for these territories.

    The federation’s autonomy from the Kingdom was a result of several referenda over the past few years across the five islands, with all but St. Eustatius voting to dissolve the Antilles. None voted for total independence. Curaçao and Sint Maarten complained that they were giving a disproportionate sum of money to the Kingdom on behalf of the BES islands, and thus desired financial independence. However, because of Curaçao’s debt to the Netherlands of roughly €2 billion, it has entered a long-term debt-relief arrangement with the Dutch government.

    Tags: Netherlands, Dutch Antilles

  • New Report Says Latin America Poised for Strong Growth in 2010 and 2011

    October 8, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Latin America and the Caribbean are likely to grow 5.7 percent this year—twice the expected recovery for the United States—say the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in a report released this week. Regional output of goods and services is expected to continue to grow in 2011, although at the slower rate of 4 percent.

    Brazil, Peru and Uruguay are expected to grow 7.5, 8.3 and 8.5 percent, respectively. The report highlighted Brazil as an emerging economic behemoth, thanks to credit growth and increased exports of iron ore, beef, soy, and sugar on the international scene, combined with strong consumption and poverty reduction at home.

    Experts attribute the better-than-expected pace of Latin American growth—despite the global financial crisis—to a decade of good fiscal and debt management, strong commodity prices, growing foreign investment, and increased trade links with Asia.

    The World Bank and IMF report cautioned against complacency, urging commodity-exporting countries in particular not to waste huge capital inflows on domestic financial excess, but instead set up windfall savings funds for emergencies. In addition, Luis Alberto Moreno, president of the Inter-American Development Bank, warned U.S. businesses not to miss out on the opportunity to develop ties to fast-growing economies. He said that for years, free trade in the U.S. has inaccurately been synonymous with loss of jobs. He also pointed out that, as a result of strong macroeconomic performance in the region and various free trade agreements, U.S. exports to Latin America increased 82 percent between 1998 and 2009.

    Tags: economic growth, World Bank, Economic Policy, International Monetary Fund

  • From Ecuador. What Correa’s “Coup” Means for Democracy

    October 7, 2010

    by Lindsay Green-Barber

    Correa’s recent political maneuverings would make even Machiavelli proud. A recap of the official version of the events of September 30: a coup attempt by the police, allegedly planned by opposition politicians; the president held hostage for hours; the swift and decisive action of President Correa ensured the defeat of the opposition and the restoration of democracy.

    Given that the president’s approval ratings have since jumped from around 50 percent (and falling) to over 75 percent, it would appear that at best, the populace believes him, and at worst, they don’t care. Unfortunately, the facts on the ground (without the government voiceover) tell a different story. Rather than enforcing democracy, Correa’s extension of the estado de excepción is a tragically ironic continuation of undemocratic rule.

    In a region where close ties between civilian leaders and the military have historically been just as dangerous for democracy as deep divisions between the two groups, the current situation in Ecuador particularly disquieting. While Correa had (prior to the alleged coup attempt) threatened to dismiss the National Assembly if they did not pass his preferred version of various budget measures, on Saturday he vowed to not take this action. Initially, the combination of this promise, the announcement on Monday that the government would reconsider the austerity measures and likely raise police and military salaries, and the return of regularly scheduled news programming, hinted that Correa in fact had good intentions to meaningfully restore democracy.

    Read More

    Tags: Ecuador, Rafael Correa

  • Peru’s Reaction to Vargas Llosa’s Nobel Prize

    October 7, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Immediately after this morning’s announcement that acclaimed author and essayist Mario Vargas Llosa was awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature, congratulatory well wishes began flowing in from across the world—but perhaps none more pronounced than in Vargas Llosa’s native Peru.

    Peruvian Minister of Culture Juan Ossio exclaimed that on top of Peru’s notable economic development, “now we have a universal writer… This prize elevates him much more.” Ossio announced forthcoming plans jointly coordinated between his office and the private sector to present a popular collection of the 2010 Nobel Laureate’s work for the general public.

    The former president of Peru’s Congress, Martha Hildebrandt, praised Vargas Llosa’s award on Peru’s Canal N. Hildebrandt was a close political ally of former President of Peru Alberto Fujimori, who defeated Vargas Llosa in the 1990 presidential election.

    Before noon in Lima, Vargas Llosa was already the number one “trend topic”—or the most talked-about issue worldwide—on Twitter.

    Read more Spanish-language news here on Vargas Llosa’s Nobel Prize.

    Tags: Peru, Mario Vargas Llosa

  • The Rising Importance of Major Cities

    October 6, 2010

    by John Parisella

    Last week, the chief of staff to President Obama, Rahm Emanuel, chose to leave arguably the second most powerful position in the U.S. government to run for mayor of Chicago. Quite a development but one that shows the lure of a major city to someone as powerful as Mr. Emanuel.

    But this is not that surprising when we recall how New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani captured the mood of America after 9/11, and how the influence of a mayor can occasionally transcend the actual city he leads. When Mayor Bloomberg recently exercised a leadership moment on the controversy regarding the mosque at Ground Zero, he ended up framing the national debate on this sensitive and controversial subject. Like it or not, cities and their first administrators are being called upon to play a greater role on issues affecting more than their actual jurisdictions and this is a welcome development.
     
    Whether it has to do with climate change and other environmental concerns, it is obvious that large cities have a greater responsibility because of the density of their populations and their jurisdiction over local public transportation. If the issue revolves around employment, cities can play a pivotal role in keeping and in creating jobs by virtue of the quality of life they offer and their receptivity to businesses. When it comes to security and crime, city officials are the best guarantee for the needed security to enhance community life. And when we search for creativity and cultural expression, increasingly we see the inspiration and leadership coming from cities and their artistic communities.
     
    Just last week the Mayor of Montréal Gérald Tremblay visited New York City on a trade mission with a special emphasis on creativity and as part of the city’s delegation to Advertising Week. To different and prestigious audiences, he articulated the many ways that Montréal and New York City have so much in common and how they have and can continue to cooperate in the future. The mayor’s enthusiasm extended to supporting a high-speed rail link between these two diverse and creative cities that are only 370 miles apart. We can expect more talk of common purpose in the months ahead from other mayors. Why, then, should we pay so much attention to cities?

    Read More

    Tags: President Barack Obama, Rahm Emanuel, Rudy Guiliani, Mayor Bloomberg, Gérald Tremblay, C40 Large Cities Climate Leadership Group, The International Cities of Peace

  • The Need for Reform in Mexico’s Congress

    October 6, 2010

    by Arjan Shahani

    Pedro Ferriz de Con (one of the most influential voices in Mexico’s radio airwaves) and I rarely see eye-to-eye on a number of issues. However, the dire need for a more efficient Mexican Congress seems to place us on somewhat common paths. 

    For about a year now, Ferriz de Con has been rallying support for his “intellectual revolution,” a movement mostly focused on eliminating party-list proportional representation in the Mexican Congress.  His plight gained public support in late 2009 and early 2010 when the Juanitas scandal was unveiled. 

    For those who have forgotten or did not hear about this, the Juanitas scandal refers to a series of women who ran for Congress last year (through direct and proportional election) only to fill gender equality quotas and then cede their seats to their husbands, siblings and other contacts (all male) soon after. They were called Juanitas as a reference to Rafael Acosta Ángeles “Juanito,” another pseudo politician who ran for representation of the Iztapalapa delegation in Mexico City under the promise that he would give this position to Clara Brugada after the elections.  The difference was that the Juanitas did not make their intentions to resign public until after the elections.

    The Juanito and the Juanitas incidents were embarrassing moments in our political history. For a moment, civil society protested by supporting Ferriz de Con’s intentions to oppose proportional representation and inefficient government.  But soon after, people went back to their daily obligations and forgot about these diputada replacements who nobody voted for and who shamefully continue to legislate in today’s Congress.

    Read More

    Tags: Mexican Congress, Pedro Ferriz de Con, Rafael Acosta, Clara Brugada, Julio Godoy Toscano

  • Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

    October 6, 2010

    by AS-COA Online

    From the Americas Society/Council of the Americas. AS/COA Online's news brief examines the major—as well as some of the overlooked—events and stories occurring across the Americas. Check back every Wednesday for the weekly roundup.

    Sign up to receive the Weekly Roundup via email.

    Ecuadoran Crisis: A Coup or Not a Coup?

    Observers are debating whether last week’s political crisis in Ecuador constituted a coup attempt. A September 30 police protest against budget cuts led to the rioting, which claimed five lives and sent President Rafael Correa to the hospital after a tear gas attack. University of Mississippi’s Miguel Centellas says in his blog that it qualifies as an attempted coup because “if Correa had died…then we would have seen a new kind of government.” An Associated Press article suggests that “thursday’s tumult appeared instead to be a revolt that spiraled out of control.” Quito-based Carlos de la Torre writes in an OpenDemocracy piece that it “was not just a failed coup” but also “a protest by police that got out of hand.” In the wake of the crisis, polls indicate that support for Correa jumped ten points to 75 percent, his highest since 2008, reports El Tiempo.

    Access an AS/COA resource guide to the crisis.

    Police Unrest in Ecuador Leads to Purge and Pay Raise

    After the September 30 crisis in Ecuador, Correa pledged to never forgive the police behind the unrest. However, since then, his government agreed to increase military and police wages and may work out a compromise to reinstate some eliminated benefits. Still, the national police has begun to experience the promised purge, with Police Chief Freddy Martínez resigning.

    Read More

    Tags: Brazil, Mexico, Immigration, Ecuador

  • Despite Verification Delays, Villarán in Lead to be Lima’s Next Mayor

    October 6, 2010

    by AQ Online

    With 100 percent of ballots cast in Sunday’s mayoral elections in Lima now counted—but not yet verified—Fuerza Social candidate Susana Villarán is in the lead with 38.498 percent of votes compared to 37.588 percent for her opponent, Lourdes Flores of the PPC-UN, according to reports this morning from the Oficina Nacional de Procesos Electorales (ONPE).  However, these numbers were based on the verification of just 74 percent of votes cast, leaving 26 percent of votes to be evaluated by elections monitors. The delay has been stirring suspicions of fraud in an election where the next mayor of Lima may be determined by less than 1 percent of votes cast. 

    Regardless of the outcome, Lima is poised to elect its first female mayor in five centuries.  Currently in the lead, Susana Villarán has served as Peru’s minister for women and social development, represented Peru on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, as well as participating in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.  She wrote an article on female representation in judicial systems in a previous issue of Americas Quarterly. Villarán also staged an unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 2006.

    Final results are expected to be announced by tomorrow.

    Tags: Peru, Elections, Fraud, Lima, Susana Villarán

  • Ecuador Reconsiders Controversial Austerity Law

    October 5, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Ecuador’s Congress has begun reconsidering the financial austerity bill that led to last week’s police uprising in Quito, which resulted in several deaths and the brief captivity of Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa in a local hospital. The law, which proposed cutting salaries and benefits for public servants in an effort to reduce the country’s fiscal deficit, led to violent rebellion particularly among police and military officers who disputed the reductions.

    The president of Ecuador’s Congress, Fernando Cordero, who is also a member of Correa’s Alianza País party, confirmed that his Asamblea would revise the law and in fact increase the wages of certain public officials who protested last week. Policy Minister Doris Soliz echoed Cordero’s statement, and added that President Correa would not disband Congress and rule by decree—a move that he had suggested earlier and is constitutionally permitted. 

    Cordero praised the reforms but still warned that select government workers would still see their pay adjusted. The salary of police officers would not be affected.

    Tags: Ecuador, Rafael Correa, Fernando Cordero

  • From Brazil. The Election's Marina Phenomenon

    October 5, 2010

    by Paulo Rogério

    The following is a translation of Paulo's post originally written in Portuguese. Read the original  version.

    The biggest surprise of the presidential elections in Brazil was the performance of Marina Silva, candidate of the Green Party (PV). The former environmental minister unexpectedly won almost 20 percent of voters to take the contest to the second round. The former PT (Workers’ Party) member, who ironically also carries a "Silva" as her surname, prevented the first-round victory of President Lula’s candidate, Dilma Rousseff, and postponed the presidential selection of South America’s most populous nation to October 31.

    What made the "case" for candidate Marina even more interesting for political scientists is why candidate Dilma Rousseff’s victory over José Serra was taken for granted by analysts and statisticians. However, the numbers have not been able to predict the "Marina" phenomenon, which was inspired in many ways by the election of Obama through the use of social networks, speeches directed toward young voters and the focus on so-called sustainability. Strictly speaking, Marina took many votes from Dilma who counted on President Lula’s government and his nearly 80 percent approval.

    Marina Silva was until recently unknown to the general public, since her party, the PV, was established in Acre, one of the country’s most distant states located in the far north. In this election, however, candidate Marina "lost winning" and is already being courted by both major political parties to give her endorsement. These parties have shared power for 16 years with the two administrations of Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Marina, in fact, got what she wanted. She helped to balance the PT-PSDB relationship, and did more than expected in this first attempt to reach the Presidential Palace.

    She has history. Coming from a poor family like Lula, Marina became literate at age 16, majored in history and was the companion of environmental leader Chico Mendes. In this election, she became the third way between political giants and developed a campaign that could be considered exemplary in terms of market and online mobilization.

    However, what most analysts are still trying to understand is how far Marina’s “green wave” was not helped by the remarkable growth of the Evangelical segment, which now represents 19 percent of the population. This is because, apart from being a poor, black nortista and ex-maid, Marina is also an Evangelical, a religious identity that overwhelmingly grows in the C and D economic classes and in the outskirts of Brazil.

    In the case of this election, rumors on the Internet that Rousseff was anti-Christian and pro-gay marriage triggered a conservative anti-Dilma wave. This helped Marina.

    Moreover, there is also the case for many progressive voters, who generally vote for the PT, but were disappointed with the corruption in Lula’s administration and sought a new center- left alternative: Marina. For these voters, Marina is the hope of continuing the Lula administration’s social policies without corruption fears.

    The question that remains now in the second round is whether Marina Silva will support Dilma and the PT, with whom she had serious disagreements on environmental issues, or José Serra (PSDB), who she criticized for years by branding him as a conservative and neo-liberal.

    The puzzle is not easy. According to first-round results, Serra would need to get 85 percent of the votes from Marina to prevail in the next round, while Dilma only needs 20 percent. Over the next few days, the media’s eyes will be looking for an announcement from that frail-looking, young lady who showed her strength in an election that seemed to have marked cards.

    * Paulo Rogério is guest blogger for AmericasQuarterly.org. He is the founder of the Instituto Mídia Étnica in Salvador, Brazil, and wrote in the Winter 2010 issue of Americas Quarterly. Read his AQ article.

     

    Do Brasil. O fenômeno Marina na eleição  presidencial brasileira

    A maior surpresa das eleições presidenciais do Brasil foi o desempenho da candidata Marina Silva do Partido Verde (PV). A ex-ministra do Meio Ambiente conseguiu um resultado inesperado no pleito de 2010 ao abocanhar uma fatia de quase 20 por cento de eleitores e levar a disputa para o segundo turno. A ex-petista, que ironicamente também carrega um "Silva" como sobrenome, impediu a vitória, no primeiro turno, da candidata do presidente Lula, Dilma Rousseff, e adiou para 31 de outubro a escolha do chefe, ou da chefe, da mais populosa nação sulamericana.

    O que tornou o “case” da candidata Mariana ainda mais interessante para os cientistas políticos é porque a vitória da candidata Dilma Rousseff sobre José Serra era tida como certa por analistas e estatísticos, porém os números não foram capazes de prever o fenômeno "Marina" que foi inspirado, em vários aspectos, na eleição de "Obama", seja pelo uso de redes sociais, do discurso pautado no eleitor jovem e no foco na chamada sustentabilidade. A rigor, Marina tirou muitos votos de Dilma—que contava com aprovação do governo do presidente Lula que beirava os 80 por cento.

    Marina Silva era até pouco tempo desconhecida do grande público, pertence a um partido pequeno (PV), além de ser um quadro político formado no Acre, um dos mais distantes estados da federação que fica no extremo norte do país. Nessa eleição, entretanto, como disse na campanha, a candidata Marina "perdeu ganhando" e já está sendo cobiçada para manifestar seu apoio pelas duas maiores agremiações políticas do Brasil que já se revezam no poder arrogantemente há 16 anos—com duas gestões de Fernando Henrique Cardoso e Luíz Inácio Lula da Silva. Marina, de fato, conseguiu o que queria, balançar a hegemonia (PT-PSDB), e fez mais do que o esperado nessa primeira tentativa de chegar ao Palácio do Planalto.

    História ela tem. Vinda de uma família pobre, assim como Lula, Marina se alfabetizou com 16 anos, formou-se em história e foi companheira de luta do líder ambientalista Chico Mendes. Nessa eleição, tornou-se a terceira via entre gigantes partidários e fez uma campanha que pode ser considerada exemplar do ponto de vista do marketing e da mobilização on-line.

    Porém, o que os principais analistas ainda estão tentando entender é até que ponto a "onda verde" de Marina não foi ajudada pelo notável crescimento do segmento evangélico, que já representa 19 por cento da população brasileira. Isto porque além de ser oriunda das classes populares, negra, nortista e ex-empregada doméstica, Marina também é evangélica, identidade religiosa que cresce de sobremaneira na classes C e D e nas periferias do Brasil.

    No caso dessa eleição, boatos na internet de que Dilma Rousseff fosse anti-cristã e a favor do casamento gay, provocaram uma onda convervadora anti-Dilma que rendeu bons frutos para Marina - que usou igrejas como palanque eleitoral.

    Por outro lado, há também o caso de muitos eleitores progressistas, que sempre votaram no PT, mas que ficaram decepcionados com os casos de corrupção na gestão de Lula e buscaram uma nova alternativa ainda no campo centro-esquerda, no caso Marina. Para esses, Marina é a esperança da continuidade das políticas sociais do governo Lula, mas sem o ônus da corrupção.

    A pergunta que fica agora é se no segundo turno Marina Silva apoiará a candidata Dilma do PT, com quem teve divergências séria sobre questões ambientais ou o candidato José Serra (PSDB) ao qual teceu severas críticas durante anos tachando-o de conservador e neoliberal.

    O quebra-cabeça não é fácil. Serra precisaria obter 85 por cento dos votos de Marina para virar o jogo eleitoral, já Dilma, precisa apenas de 20 por cento para se tornar uma das mulheres mais poderosa do mundo. Nos próximos dias os olhos da mídia estarão atentos para o pronunciamento daquela jovem senhora, de aparência frágil, que mostrou sua força numa eleição que parecia ter cartas marcadas. Nesse jogo eleitoral vamos ver quem vai "ganhar ganhando".

    * Paulo Rogério Nunes é blogger convidado do AmericasQuarterly.org. Ele é fundador do Instituto Mídia Étnica em Salvador, Brazil, e é um dos autores na edição de inverno de 2010 da revista Americas Quarterly. Leia seu artigo na AQ.

    Tags: Brazil, Marina Silva

  • El Expediente Piedad Córdoba

    October 4, 2010

    by Jenny Manrique

    La llamada Farc-política cobró su primera víctima la semana pasada: La Senadora del Partido Liberal, Piedad Córdoba. Con una de las inhabilidades más largas que se hayan producido en la historia del país, la Procuraduría determinó que la legisladora no podrá ejercer cargos públicos en los próximos 18 años, lo que sin duda la borraría, por lo menos en lo que al engranaje del Estado se refiere, de la vida política del país. Los argumentos que arguye el Ministerio Público tienen que ver con la caja de pandora que se abrió con el hallazgo de los computadores del extinto jefe guerrillero Raúl Reyes, tras el polémico bombardeo a su campamento en Ecuador. En las comunicaciones halladas la legisladora aparece como presunta interlocutora de varios miembros del Secretariado de las Farc a los que le promete llevar su mensaje revolucionario a escenarios internacionales.

    En otras palabras, según el procurador Alejandro Ordoñez, Piedad habría venido actuando como vocera y promotora de las Farc. Hay que hilar muy finito y delgado para llegar a tal aseveracion y hasta ahora los sustentos jurídicos son muy flojos. Lo que se ha adjuntado al expediente son un intercambio de e-mails, transcritos además en formato word, en los que ‘Teodora', 'Teodora de Bolívar', la 'negra' o la 'negrita' intercambia correspondencia con miembros del Estado Mayor Conjunto de las Farc. Ordoñez concluye que estos alias corresponden a Piedad porque los temas tocados en los e-mails coinciden con la agenda de la Senadora tanto local como internacionalmente. También concluye sin mayor fundamento, que ella es la que responde los mensajes, y que sus pronunciamientos en foros en distintos países hablando “mal” del Estado colombiano, son una promoción del terrorismo. Incluye a sus pruebas, fotografías con guerrilleros en los que Piedad aparece reunida en el marco de su labor como mediadora para la liberación de secuestrados—imágenes que hasta en su momento se tomó el Presidente de Wall Street, Richard Grasso con Raúl Reyes en plena zona de distensión—y 52 conversaciones telefónicas—las transcripciones, no los audios—que la senadora habría tenido con las Farc y el Eln.

    Read More

    Tags: Colombia, FARC

  • Market Reacts to Brazil’s Presidential Election

    October 4, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Although stocks are not likely to be affected by yesterday’s election, the Brazilian real is likely to continue appreciating ahead of what will now be a second round of voting.

    Catching some observers by surprise, presidential candidate Dilma Rousseff, the former chief of staff to President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, received 46.9 percent of total votes cast in national elections on Sunday—just shy of the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff election against former São Paulo Governor José Serra. Mr. Serra won 32.6 percent of the votes, followed by Green Party candidate Marina Silva, who captured 19.3 percent.

    Going into the election, the Brazilian real, traded at about 1.68 per dollar, its highest level since the September 2008 financial crisis in the United States. This is a clear change from most past elections that have been preceded by market jitters.

    With the presidential decision now on hold until a second round on October 31, the government is unlikely to make any moves that could affect the exchange rate. "In the near term, the Brazilian real is likely to continue to strengthen as the government will put off any announcements of policies to help weaken the currency," said Doug Smith of Standard Chartered Bank.

    Stay tuned for more election coverage from AQ Blogger, Paulo Rogerio.

    (Homepage photo by Roberto Stuckert Filho.)

    Tags: Elections, Marina Silva, Dilma Rousseff, Jose Serra

  • From Peru. Lima’s Close Mayoral Race

    October 4, 2010

    by Naomi Mapstone

    Susana Villarán appears to have squeaked into Lima’s mayorship with the narrowest of margins, amid fearmongering that the human rights activist could be a “trojan horse” for radical leftists.

    Villarán, a moderate, will be Lima’s first leftist mayor since 1983, and the first elected female mayor in five centuries.

    With 58.4 percent of the votes counted, Villarán had 38.95 percent, compared with Lourdes Flores, a lawyer and two-time presidential candidate, who secured 36.85 percent. Fernando Tuesta, a respected pollster at Lima’s Catholic University, told Peruvian daily La Republica the margin giving Villarán a victory, although small, was almost certain to stick.

    With Peru’s economy bouncing back strongly from last year’s global recession, Lima is benefiting from a boom in construction, strong inflows of foreign direct investment and the rapid growth of a new middle class.

    Read More

    Tags: Lourdes Flores, Lima, Susana Villarán, Fernando Tuesta, Mayoral race

  • Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

    October 1, 2010

    by AS-COA Online

    Chávez Lashes out at Reporter after Election

    Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez issued a stinging critique of Andreína Flores, a Radio France reporter who questioned how vote tallies correspond to seats won in the National Assembly. Although opposition candidates picked up half the votes, recent redistricting means they captured only a third of the seats in September 26 parliamentary elections compared to the two-thirds snapped up by members of Chávez’s party. “It seems as if you're totally ignoring what happened here, as if you lived on the moon,” said Chávez in response to the reporter. Radio France issued a reply which said that Flores “still has the full confidence of Radio France’s leadership,” and invited Chávez to “speak before the microphones as part of another interview.”

    Read an AS/COA news analysis of the results of Venezuela’s September 26 parliamentary elections.

    Read More

    Tags:

  • Western Hemispheric Leaders Express Support for Ecuador’s President

    October 1, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Responding to the dramatic events that transpired on Thursday in Ecuador, leaders from across Latin America expressed their unequivocal support for that country’s president, Rafael Correa. In pan-American solidarity, presidents ranging from Bolivia’s Evo Morales to Colombia’s Juan Manuel Santos condemned the police attack on President Correa, which left him captive in a Quito hospital for hours before being freed by a successful military rescue operation late Thursday night.

    Members of the police force rioted Thursday to protest a new law reducing benefits and the pace of salary increases for public servants. It was unclear whether they sought actual control of the government.

    Heads of states belonging to the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) flew to Buenos Aires late Thursday to participate in an emergency meeting on developments in Ecuador. Only President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil, on the campaign trail ahead of Sunday’s presidential elections, and President Fernando Lugo of Paraguay, recovering from chemotherapy treatment, did not attend.

    Shortly after the meeting began, Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced that Correa had been liberated and was in good health. UNASUR issued a statement denouncing the rebellion and emphasizing the preservation of democracy and institutional order. The South American bloc was joined in its sentiments by the Organization of American States and U.S. State Department.

    Earlier in the day, individual heads of state, beginning with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, had issued statements in support of Correa’s democratically elected government. Chilean President Sebastián Piñera urged UNASUR nations to meet to end any attempt to disrupt the constitutional and democratic order in Ecuador, while Cuban leader Fidel Castro called the attack an “already-failed coup d’etat.” Both Peru and Colombia closed their borders with Ecuador in an additional sign of solidarity.

    UNASUR foreign ministers are expected to travel to Quito Friday morning “to show their support to President Rafael Correa and to the Ecuadorean people,” according to Argentine Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman.

    Click here for a resource guide to the crisis in Ecuador.

    Tags: Ecuador, Rafael Correa, UNASUR

  • Gun Battle Grips Venezuelan Prison

    September 30, 2010

    by AQ Online

    At least 10 inmates died in an armed battle between rival gangs in a Venezuelan prison on Wednesday. The violence, which took place in Tocoron prison in the central state of Aragua (75 miles south of Caracas), was reportedly triggered by the murder of a gang leader in the same prison earlier this week. During the eight-hour battle for control of Tocoron, inmates used automatic weapons, and even hand grenades, against other inmates and prison guards.

    Police surrounded the prison during the firefight, but were forced to wait outside until the intensity diminished before restoring control. Among the wounded were four female relatives of inmates housed in Tocoron, who were hit by stray bullets while waiting outside for news of their loved ones.

    The gang fight at Tocoron highlights the dire conditions in Venezuela’s prisons. More than 220 Venezuelan inmates died in prison in the first quarter of 2010 alone. The violence is due in part to a rampant gang culture that is linked to the country’s drug trade. Prisons are also overcrowded with 40,000 inmates occupying a correctional system that is only meant to accommodate 15,000.

    Tags: Venezuela, gangs, Prison

  • Bolivia’s Proposed Law Against Racism Raises Censorship Questions

    September 29, 2010

    by Kate Prengel

    The Bolivian government has gotten itself into a strange debate about free speech. A proposed “law against racism and all forms of discrimination,” which President Evo Morales is strongly backing, would allow the government to shut down newspapers or broadcasters that publish racist material.

    Reporters Without Borders says this gives the government broad powers to censor media. For his part, Morales says the law is just part of a push to end Bolivia's long history of discrimination and oppression.

    Morales can speak with direct passion on this issue. He is Aymara, from the countryside and he is Bolivia's first indigenous president—the country has been dominated for centuries by its tiny European elite. It's perhaps not surprising, then, that he responded in highly personal terms when I asked him about press freedom under the new law (during a press briefing last week, on the fringes of the UN General Assembly.)

    Morales grew up hearing stories from his mother about the racism of city people, who drove her off the sidewalks when she came into town and made her walk in the dirt “with the horse, with the animals.” He saw first-hand how impoverished campesinos were routinely turned out of banks and driven away from city centers. And his own story, for him, is symbolic of Bolivia's transformation: “we can all walk into the Plaza Murillo, now. Then we got into Parliament—and now we are in the Palace, we oppressed ones.”

    Read More

    Tags: Bolivia

  • Nicaraguan Government Urged to Permit Abortions

    September 29, 2010

    by AQ Online

    A group of women delivered thousands of signatures demanding the restoration of therapeutic abortion to representatives of President Daniel Ortega.  The signatures, collected in Europe by Amnesty International, were turned in by leaders of the Strategic Group for the Decriminalization of Therapeutic Abortion, in hopes that international pressure will aid in passing “legislation regarding abortion to be able to save women’s lives,” according to Wendy Flores, one of the group’s leaders. 

    In Nicaragua, Chile and El Salvador, abortions are illegal under any circumstances, including rape, incest or risk to the mother’s life.  According to Flores, women in Nicaragua have died because abortions are inaccessible. She accused the government of withholding data about such deaths.  The prohibition on abortions is a recent development, having been outlawed following the 2006 electoral campaign, after being allowed in cases where the mother’s life was at risk for over a century.  The decision has been criticized by women’s groups, the physicians’ association of Nicaragua, Human Rights Watch, the United Nations, and the European Union, which have demanded further discussion on the issue. 

    The petition was coordinated to coincide with an international Day for the Decriminalization of Abortion in Latin America and the Caribbean, which saw protests and rallies in other Latin American countries to decriminalize abortions. 

    Tags: Nicaragua, Women's rights, Abortion in Latin America, Amnesty International

  • Rousseff’s Advantage Narrows Ahead of Sunday Elections

    September 28, 2010

    by AQ Online

    A survey released today by Brazilian polling agency Datafolha shows that voter support for ruling party presidential candidate Dilma Rousseff has fallen to a one-month low of 46 percent, down from 49 percent one week ago and 51 percent the week before. Results from the poll, which surveyed 3,180 people and have a 2 percent margin of error, make it more likely that a runoff will take place four weeks after the first round of voting on October 3. A candidate needs at least 50 percent of the valid vote to win outright.

    Analysts suggest corruption allegations against the government are turning well-informed middle-class voters away from President Lula’s hand-picked successor. Last week, Erenice Guerra—who replaced Rousseff as Lula’s chief of staff—resigned over allegations that she sought kickbacks for helping businesses secure contracts and state loans for public work projects. Previously, members of Lula’s Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) were accused of illegally releasing the tax records of opposition candidate José Serra’s daughter.

    Serra, of the centrist Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (PSDB), has tried to use the recent scandals to his advantage, but data from this most recent poll show that his support among voters has remained steady at 28 percent. Rather, voter support for Partido Verde candidate Marina Silva increased 2 percentage points to 16 percent.

    Although the recent scandals and slip in Rousseff’s popularity may affect her ability to win in a first round, they are unlikely to affect the final outcome of the election. Data from the new Datafolha poll show Rousseff beating Serra in a second round, 52 to 39 percent.

    Tags: Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Dilma Rousseff, Brazil elections

  • Major Gains for Opposition in Venezuela Vote

    September 27, 2010

    by AQ Online

    The president of Venezuela’s National Electoral Council, Tibisay Lucena, today announced the results of Sunday’s congressional elections. President Hugo Chávez’ United Socialist Party won the majority of seats, 95 out of 165, and the opposition Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (Democratic Unified Panel) won 61 seats, according to preliminary results. Two legislators were elected from other parties and the outcome of seven seats remained in question.

    With these results, the opposition claimed victory as it won 52 percent of the popular vote.  Chávez fell short of his goal on Sunday to win two-thirds of the congressional seats, which would have given him the ability to push through legislation without opposition roadblocks.

    Chávez, who had controlled 139 of the congressional seats, refrained from making a public appearance and instead opted to connect via Twitter: “Well my dear compatriots, it’s been a great election day and we’ve obtained a solid victory; enough to continue deepening the Bolivarian revolution and Democratic Socialism. We need to continue strengthening the revolution!”

    Ramon Guillermo Aveledo head of the Democratic Unified Panel proclaimed, "we are the majority" and it will "only grow further in the next two years" in reference to the 2012 presidential elections. Political analyst and pollster, Oscar Schemel remains cautious and said “this doesn’t mean that Chávez’ leadership has crumbled.”

    Tags: Hugo Chavez, Tibisay Lucena, United Socialist Party, Ramon Guillermo Aveledo, Mesa de la Unidad Democrática

  • Efectos de la Operación Sodoma: ¿Cerca del fin de las Farc?

    September 27, 2010

    by Jenny Manrique

    El cuerpo hinchado y amoratado de Víctor Julio Suárez (alias el “Mono Jojoy”), desprovisto del bigote que tenía cuando aparecía en los vídeos en que maltrataba a secuestrados, o daba órdenes a sus hombres, fue mostrado al mundo envuelto en unas bolsas plásticas como un trofeo de guerra. “Esta es la bienvenida a las Farc”, dijo el Presidente Juan Manuel Santos en Nueva York, desde donde anunció con júbilo la muerte del líder guerrillero. “Es como si Estados Unidos matara al terrorista Osama Bin Laden”, aseveró orgulloso. También recibió las felicitaciones del propio Barack Obama con quien tuvo su primera reunión bilateral.

    Con un mes y medio de mandato en la Casa de Nariño, el flamante presidente logró lo que en sus años de Ministro de Defensa le trasnochaba: acabar con el líder militar de las Farc, considerado la cabeza del ala dura del grupo guerrillero más cerrada a la negociación, intransigente, sanguinario, cruel, autoritario, practicante de la guerra sin límites ni proporcionalidades y responsable de los más duros ataques que haya recibido el ejército y la sociedad civil en más de medio siglo de lucha guerrillera.

    No en vano, a nivel judicial sobre Jojoy pesaban no menos de 60 ordenes de captura, 12 medidas de aseguramiento, cinco condenas, dos peticiones de extradición y 25 investigaciones por rebelión, homicidio con fines terroristas, y secuestros, entre otros delitos, como lo reveló Presidente Santos en su alocución presidencial donde dio el parte de victoria.

    Las víctimas de Jojoy son innumerables. Fue responsable del ataque a las Delicias, en el sureño departamento de Putumayo donde murieron 37 militares. Otro 60 militares se encontraron en el botín de secuestrados de las Farc, a quienes pretendía canjear por los presos guerrilleros en las cárceles. Hoy, después de liberaciones unilaterales, rescates y fugas, todavía hay 17 víctimas de las tomas de Patascoy, Mitú y Puerto Rico que no han recuperado su libertad. Son las familias de estas personas quienes en Colombia no están celebrando por esta reciente victoria militar.  Son ellos que temen que los ánimos de venganza de la Farc se vuelquen contra los suyos. (Ayer expresamente pidieron al comandante Alfonso Cano que respete las vidas de sus seres queridos).

    Jojoy también planeó la bomba contra el Nogal, un club donde se reúnen las élites políticas y empresariales del país, que en 2003 fue objeto de un atentado en que murieron 36 civiles. Planeó asesinatos como el de los misioneros estadounidenses, Stephen Everett Welsh y Timothy Van Dick—quienes difundían el catolicismo en comunidades indígenas en Colombia—y del congresista liberal Diego Turbay Cote.

    Read More

    Tags: Barack Obama, Víctor Julio Suárez, Juan Ma \nual Santos, Operación Sodoma, Operación Jaque, Rodrigo Rivera

  • Colombia Cracking Down on Illegal Mining

    September 24, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Colombian authorities announced that police have shut down 40 illegal gold mines, confiscated heavy machinery and made 16 arrests for illegal mining linked to armed groups in targeted operations which began on September 11. Under orders from President Juan Manuel Santos, the crackdown took place across a wide area of the northwestern province of Cordoba and the Cauca region and included 400 police officers. The effort to “eradicate illegal mining in the region and harm the finances of the outlaw groups that foment violence with the resources derived from the mines” was coordinated jointly by the Minister for the Environment, Beatriz Uribe and director of the National Police, General Oscar Naranjo. 

    Illegal mining operations have not only funded criminal activity, but have also been responsible for severe environmental damage to surrounding ecosystems and communities.  In comments made at an Americas Society and Council of the Americas dinner in New York last night, President Santos said that his administration will continue to be proactive in eradicating illegal mining operations throughout the country and take the steps needed to repair damage to the country’s rich ecosystem. 

    Authorities say the illegal mining operations “began with the forced expropriation of land promoted by the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC),” which demobilized in 2006. 

    Tags: Colombia, Environment, Social and environmental concerns, Juan Manuel Santos, Illegal Mining

  • Piñera Urges U.S. to Deepen Economic Ties with Chile

    September 23, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Chilean President Sebastián Piñera cautioned Wednesday that if the United States did not move to strengthen its economic ties to Chile and other Latin American countries soon, others would fill the void shortly.

    In a speech delivered at Americas Society and Council of the Americas, President Piñera urged the United States to pass long-pending free-trade agreements with Colombia and Panama. He also stated that China, with which a free-trade agreement has been in effect since 2006, is a principal business partner of Chile’s. In addition to copper, China has become a consumer of Chile’s wines and is poised to become the country’s biggest foreign investor.

    Piñera used the speech to highlight Chile’s recent economic achievements. With an economy expected to grow 6 percent in 2010, Chile is currently in the midst of “a true economic renaissance,” he said. The country has the second-biggest economy in Latin America and weathered the economic recession well. From March to June 2010, Piñera’s government created 165,000 jobs, bringing the level of unemployment down from 9 percent to 8.3 percent. A net creditor, it is unlikely to borrow very much this year.

    In spite of these successes, Piñera outlined a series of measures to address the economic challenges Chile faces. He hopes to create 200,000 new jobs per year and double public investment in education. He also emphasized the goal of eliminating extreme poverty by 2010.

    Tags: Chile, Economic Development, Sebastian Piñera

  • Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

    September 22, 2010

    by AS-COA Online

    From the Americas Society/Council of the Americas. AS/COA Online's news brief examines the major—as well as some of the overlooked—events and stories occurring across the Americas. Check back every Wednesday for the weekly roundup.

    Sign up to receive the Weekly Roundup via email.

    WEF Competitiveness Report: Chile Leads LatAm, Panama Makes Gains

    The World Economic Forum released its Global Competitiveness Report for 2010-2011, with Chile remaining the most competitive country in Latin America. Panama posted the largest improvements in the region, pulling ahead of Costa Rica as the most competitive country in Central America, and moving to 53 on the list with boosts to infrastructure, macroeconomic stability, and technological readiness. The report identifies the need to improve infrastructure as a challenge for the region’s competitiveness.

    DREAM Act Blocked by Republican Filibuster

    An attempt by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to push the DREAM Act through U.S. Congress fell apart on Tuesday. Democrats lacked the necessary votes to start debates on the annual defense authorization bill, on which DREAM Act amendments had been tagged. The legislation, first introduced in 2001 and rejected multiple times, allows undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States before the age of 16 a path to citizenship by attending university or through military service. A Univision.com report argues that the damage done by denying this path to citizenship extends beyond the immigrant community.

    Border Governor Meeting Exposes Tensions

    Governors from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border wrapped up a tense meeting at the annual binational conference of governors on Monday, reports The New York Times. Arizona originally planned to host the meeting, but canceled it after all six of Mexico’s border governors threatened to boycott due to Arizona’s controversial immigration law. The conference relocated to New Mexico. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and Texas Governor Rick Perry chose to skip the meeting, demonstrating the tensions underlying border issues.

    The Summer 2010 issue of Americas Quarterly features a debate between Governor Brewer and New Mexico’s Governor Bill Richardson regarding immigration reform.

    Access an AS/COA Resource Guide covering SB1070, Arizona’s controversial immigration bill.

    CentAm Countries Added to White House Drug List

    The White House announced its list of Illicit Drug Producing Countries for 2011, adding the Central American Countries of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras. An Americas Quarterly blog post argues that the inclusion taps into the theory that drug traffickers are moving their operations into smaller countries to escape anti-trafficking efforts in Mexico and Colombia.

    Honduran President Requests UN Support

    On the sidelines of the opening 65th UN General Assembly this week, President of Honduras Porfirio Lobo met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and received Ban’s assurance of the UN’s continued support for Lobo’s Truth and Reconciliation Committee. The agency is investigating human rights issues in the run up to Honduras’ June 2009 coup.

    Nicaragua Reprints Constitution, Reenacts Old Law

    The Christian Science Monitor reports on a decision by the government of President Daniel Ortega to reprint the Nicaraguan Constitution during a national holiday period and, in the process, reenact a law taken off the books 20 years ago. The law allows public officials such as Supreme Court justices to retain office beyond term limits until new officials are appointed.

    Accord Brings S. Korean Factories to Haiti

    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive signed an accord with a South Korean manufacturer, giving it the green light to build garment factories in Haiti. Bloomberg reports that “restoring Haiti’s once-profitable garment assembly sector has been a cornerstone of economic plans” since before the January 12 earthquake.

    South American Resources May Be Costly Deal for China

    A blog post for Reuters Breaking Views argues that aggressive Chinese investment in Latin American resource production may not be worth the costs, despite China’s large appetite for commodities. “The more finite resources China buys at exuberant prices, the higher the premium sellers will demand,” according to the post. “Japan learned that lesson when its 1980s foreign investment surge culminated in crazy bids for trophy assets like Rockefeller Center and Pebble Beach golf course. China’s conquistadores have a clearer strategic goal, but they too may leave behind more treasure than they haul away.”

    Chinese Firms Making Canadian Mineral Purchases

    In terms of Western Hemisphere investments, China isn’t just looking to Latin America for natural resources. Financial Times’ Beyond Brics blog reports that China’s largest producer of nickel and cobalt agreed to buy a Canadian metals explorer. The purchase comes on the heels of another Chinese bid, this time by chemicals group Sinochem to purchase one of Canada’s largest mining companies, PotashCorp.

    Canada and Russia Ask UN to Settle Arctic Dispute

    At a September 16 meeting, Russian and Canadian foreign ministers agreed to allow the UN to settle competing claims for a ridge under the receding Arctic polar ice. The issue has gained importance as global warming exposes new seaways and ocean resources.

    Rousseff Pledges to Continue Brazil’s Fight against Poverty

    In an op-ed written for TerraViva, Dilma Rousseff, the leading candidate in Brazil’s October 3 presidential election, touts Brazil’s record of meeting its Millennium Development Goals and promises to continue poverty reduction while promoting sustainable development upon assuming the presidency. Entitled “A Brazilian Promise,” the article emphasizes “Brazil’s new relationship with the rest of the world.”

    Brazil to Aid Cuba in Small Business Growth

    Foreign Minister Celso Amorim announced that Brazil aims to support economic development in Cuba by helping small and mid-sized entrepreneurs. Calling Cuba’s recent layoffs of 500,000 public workers “very courageous,” Amorim said that the move only pays off if these workers don’t “fall into the informal economy,” reports Reuters.

    Chile Celebrates Bicentennial

    September 18 marked Chile’s two-hundredth birthday as the bicentennial was celebrated across the country. The Chilean government’s official bicentennial website features photos and more information about this year’s independence commemoration.

    Argentina Mulls Chilean Guerrilla’s Fate

    Chile’s most wanted guerrilla, Sergio Galvarino Apablaza,of the Frente Patriótic Manuel Rodríguez, remains in limbo in Argentina as the government decides whether to extradite him to Chile or grant him asylum. MercoPress reports that the Supreme Court of Justice authorized the extradition last week. Argentine Senator Jovino Novoa said that “any other decision [than to approve the extradition], in my perspective, would be a grave offense to the rule of law.”

    Ecuador, Colombia to Meet on Refugee Issue

    Bilateral meetings begin Thursday to resolve the crisis of refugees crossing from Colombia into Ecuador. Two Weeks Notice blog reports that "this is one of numerous gestures President [Juan Manuel] Santos has made to neighboring countries" since his August inauguration in Colombia in August. Some 50,000 Colombians have fled to Ecuador, which expects another 15,000 this year.

    Colombian Military Strikes FARC Base

    The Colombian military carried out an attack on a Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) base near the border with Ecuador on Monday. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos called the strike “the biggest blow in recent times” to FARC rebels. The attack killed 27 guerillas, including a high-ranking political leader known as “Domingo Biojó.”

    Obama and Santos to Talk Trade and Defense

    U.S. President Barack Obama and his Colombian counterpart Juan Manuel Santos will meet on September 24 for the first time since Santos took office. Dinero reports that the two leaders will likely discuss the pending Free Trade Agreement between the two countries, as well as details of an agreement that allows U.S. forces to use bases inside Colombia.

    Caracas Considers Arms Ban as Crime Rises

    The head of Amnesty International (AI) in Venezuela criticized the government of Hugo Chávez for its inability to control illegal weapons, which AI estimates total 12 million, leading to roughly 15,000 murders in Venezuela in 2009. Carlos Lusverti made the comment as Venezuelan lawmakers contemplate a new law that would mandate citizens to surrender illegal firearms or face stiff penalties of up to 12 years in prison.

    Venezuela Closes Schools for Elections

    Latin American Herald Tribune reports that “an inopportune and arbitrary ruling by the Ministry of Education” has kept schools closed until five days after the September 26 legislative elections. The extended school vacation is problematic, the piece argues, because not all the schools will be used as polling stations and polling operators will be vacating the stations on September 27.

    Read an AS/COA analysis of Venezuela’s September 26 election.

    Ciudad Juarez Newspaper Asks Cartels for Truce

    An editorial published by Ciudad Juarez’s El Diario on Sunday directly asked drug cartels “What do you want from us?” and requested a “truce.” After the killing of another of its journalists, the piece argued that that it had no choice but to address the cartels because the government had failed to protect journalists and the gangs had become the city’s de facto authority. Mexican President Felipe Calderón’s security spokesman responded by saying “in no way should anyone promote a truce or negotiate with criminals who are precisely the ones causing anxiety.”

    Mexico Looks Back to 1985 Earthquake

    An El Universal interactive presentation commemorates the twenty-fifth anniversary of the earthquake that claimed thousands of lives and devastated the Mexican capital. The presentation contains images, testimonies, and before-and-after pictures showing damage and reconstruction.

    Women Lead Polls in Lima Mayoralty Race

    Lima could soon have its first female democratically elected mayor. The left-leaning Susana Villarán and former legislator Lourdes Flores Nano lead in the polls, with 42 percent and 28 percent respectively, according to a survey published by El Comercio. The elections take place on October 3.

    Puerto Rican Birth Certificates Stir Controversy

    Officials at the Department of Homeland Security announced that Puerto Ricans wishing to use their birth certificates as proof of U.S. citizenship have until September 30 to apply for an updated version of their original birth certificate. The move came after agencies in several U.S. states sparked controversy by refusing to accept birth certificates from the U.S. territory as proof of U.S. citizenship.

    U.S. Stamp Honors Puerto Rican Poet

    The face of renowned poet Julia de Burgos now graces the face of a new U.S. stamp. The poet, who penned 203 poems published in four books, moved to New York in 1940 and passed away in 1953 at the young age of 39. Daily News reports that the stamp draws on imagery from “Río Grande de Loíza, ”one of her best-known poems, which is “a sensuous ode to a river in Puerto Rico” where she was raised.

    Join Americas society for a presentation of the Norton Anthology of Latino Literature on September 30.

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  • No Elections in Turks and Caicos

    September 22, 2010

    by AQ Online

    The British Foreign Office minister, Henry Bellingham, announced yesterday that Turks and Caicos' elections set for July 2011 would be delayed to allow for anti-corruption measures and government reforms to take effect, sparking protests and increasing tensions on the Caribbean island.  Britain’s direct rule on the islands began in August 2009 after a probe into allegations of misuse of public funds and improper sale of government owned land found “urgent and wide-ranging systemic change” was necessary on the islands. 

    Following the dismissal of the local government and legislature, Britain appointed Gordon Wetherell as governor of the islands. 

    The People’s Democratic Movement, which previously welcomed British efforts to clean up the government, released a statement demanding “a return of power to the people of the Turks and Caicos islands,” and characterized the British announcement as a “blatant attempt to further separate Turks and Caicos Islanders from [their] inalienable rights to full democracy.” 

    Islanders’ frustrations with the British interim government have increased amid the economic downturn and continued political turmoil.

    Tags: corruption, Elections, protest, Turks and Caicos

  • Where is Salvadoran Civil Society?

    September 22, 2010

    by Julio Rank Wright

    The past few weeks have been tough on El Salvador and Central America. The tragic discovery of 72 murdered immigrants in the state of Tamaulipas, Mexico, generated widespread commotion given the fact that most were Salvadoran, Guatemalan and Honduran citizens. The news—beyond moving society due to the cruel and sadistic nature of the crimes—became an ironic reminder for most young Central Americans who constantly flee their nations to escape increased violence and lack of economic opportunities.

    Aggressive calls have been made by government officials and the alleged survivor of the massacre not to travel through Mexico due to increased violence and harassment toward immigrants. However, after the mourning of the deceased, everyone seems to have turned the page and recognize that these are no longer just isolated initiatives.

    El Salvador’s President Funes just came back from a meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderón where they first agreed on establishing a high-level working group on security and justice led by high-level political officials. Pessimism aside, the initiative will likely fail to deliver systematic changes in immigrant security. We all know that the situation in Mexico is complex, to say the least.

    A second highly publicized incident came with the three-day suspension of virtually all economic activity in El Salvador due to a massive public transportation system halt. Beginning September 9, a generalized threat from maras led Transportistas to go a 72-hour closure of services that brought the country to a complete stand still. The threat was accompanied by the murder of several transportation workers and the burning of some buses. The government called for prudence and calm while deploying 2,000 additional armed forces personnel to patrol the streets and accompany what few buses did work.

    In the midst of these two events, but particularly the second one, observers would expect an energetic outcry from civil society. However, aside from an estimate of economic loses made by the main business associations, civil society and the public in general had a very weak response to an ineffective public safety and crime stopping policy.

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    Tags: Felipe Calderon, Mauricio Funes

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